I'm perusing Alan Jacobs' A Theology of Reading: the Hermeneutics of Love for my lit theory exam later today, and I came across the idea of art (specifically literature) as a gift:
In other words, to think of a book as a thing is to commodify it in ways that deny it human significance: Conversely, to think of it as a gift, as a human activity, may create confusion - How can a book be a person?...(78)
I think a lot of the time I read and write as if it were a gift. Like the author wants to give me something she has discovered, like a child coming inside with a carefully selected dandelion, or a friend returning from a trip with a necklace or a trinket. Sometimes it's more like my mom giving me luggage for my birthday: "here's something I really think you will need." And a lot of the time I really do need it (my mom and some authors are wise like that).
And when I write, sometimes at least (when it's good?) I want to make it worth giving. I try and think as far as I can to somehow reach something that's going to be worth something. Like I am saying to any potential reader "isn't this nice?" or "here is something useful" or both simultaneously, if I'm really lucky.
Of course, not all gifts are thoughtful, or useful, or elegant. Sometimes a gift has more strings attatched than you would really like to receive. And sometimes that is the way with literature, too.